January 19, 2013
GuestS: Mark Kleinschmidt, Marian Wright Edelman, James Clyburn, Lori Haas, Amy Walter, Xavier Becerra, Stephanie Schriock, Karen Bass, Nia-Malika Henderson, Cecile Richards, Delores Morton
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, do you know
what Roe v. Wade is? If so, you are probably over 30. Plus, I`m sending a
letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Marian Wright Edelman on
what Washington can do for children. But first, Nerdland is in Washington.
And we`re trying to get the inside scoop.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. This morning, we are live in
Washington, D.C. as preparations are under way for the second inauguration
of President Barack Obama. And while the public ceremony and celebration
will take place on Monday, the official swearing in as mandated by the
Constitution will occur tomorrow morning. Chief Justice John Roberts will
swear in the president in a brief ceremony at the White House just before
noon and MSNBC will bring it to you live tomorrow. President Obama will
retake the oath with a 52 percent approval rating according to the latest
NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll. Four years ago, after the president`s
first inauguration, the economy is not in a free fall, universal health
care is not merely a political platform, the American auto industry is not
on the brink of the extinction, and the United States is not bogged down in
multiple international wars, and the girls have a dog.
Look, President Obama is going to enter his new term with a new agenda
already under a bright spotlight, and at the top of the list, immigration
reform and gun control policy. For the first time 52 percent of Americans
favor allowing undocumented immigrants with jobs to apply for legal status.
And 56 percent of Americans believe that stricter laws should govern the
sale of firearms. The wind of public opinion, so to speak, would appear to
be at the president`s back, but right in front of him remains something
very different from when he entered office four years ago, a Republican-
controlled House. Initially elected with an outside of the Beltway appeal,
the president is now by very definition a Washington insider and for
anything to get done in his second term, he is going to have to play an
insider`s game. Joining me now, one of the most important allies the
president has on the Hill. Since 1993, he has represented the sixth
district of South Carolina in the House of Representatives where he is now
the third highest ranking Democrat. Congressman James Clyburn. It is so
lovely to have you here.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, thank you so much for having
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to talk with you about guns and immigration, but
before I get there, I want to talk to you about what just happened with the
Republicans in the House who seem to have done a little mini cave on the
debt ceiling, it looks like they are going to be willing to extend the debt
ceiling for three months, that`s, you know, cover of "The New York Times"
this morning. What is that about? What is happening?
CLYBURN: Well, it seems to me that they are trying to line up their
opposition to the president, this debt ceiling trying to line that up with
two other big economic situations that we are going to be faced, that is
just to continue resolution that we - a common to call the CR, that means
to keep the government running, that expires the first of March. Then, of
course, we have the so-called, I don`t know what to call it, it is not the
cliff, I would ...
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, the curb.
CLYBURN: Yes, the curb just beginning to kick in.
CLYBURN: We have to work with that and I think they are trying to line all
those up ...
HARRIS-PERRY: All right.
CLYBURN: So as to camouflage whatever they may do, which I think will be
to vote to let the debt ceiling go up.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So - so I should not see this as we might say in the
black church, a "Come to Jesus" moment, where they went to Washington and
they said, you know what, we are outmanned on this, and so we`re going to
just to have to give the president his way, because the wind of public
opinion is at his back, instead, they are just lining up additional
CLYBURN: That is the way I see it.
CLYBURN: Now, I could be wrong, but I don`t think I am.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. No, I suspect you aren`t. In fact, let me ask you a
little bit about that, because one of the things that the president has
said about you is that you are one of the few members of the House of
Representatives who when you speak, regardless of partisan identification,
regardless of geography, people listen to what you have to say. Is that
still true in this deeply divided House?
CLYBURN: Well, I would say I agree with the president that they hear what
I say, I`m not too sure they always listen. The House is very divided.
And I don`t think it is divided so much along partisan lines as they are
along ideological lines. I think that there are a lot of Republicans that
I talk to who would love to see some movement on a lot of these issues. It
is just that the way the electorate is now defined that is - redistricting
has made it very, very uncomfortable for them to defy the Tea Party
movement, because of what very well could happen to them in their
congressional districts when it comes to the primaries. So I think that
the will is there for something to get done. We have just got the figure
out the way. As I often say to the president, I think the will is there,
we have to figure out the way.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it is interesting to hear you say that the will is
there, I think, for those of us who are not D.C. Beltway insiders, it feels
as though the partisanship is the key issue, but that it is really just
ideology, if there`s just a small proportion of Republicans that are kind
of holding hostage a whole party, then take for example, immigration
reform, is this a place where reasonable members of the Republican Party
can finally marginalize those ideologues and get something done on
CLYBURN: Well, I think so. It would have been done a long time ago if a
few senators and one being my home state senator had not walked away from
the deal we had going. The senate going first, getting something done and
I thought the House would come along. At that time the Democrats held the
majority in the House. Now, you may recall the two or three senators who
we thought were there, walked away from the so-called comprehensive
immigration fix that we had in place, hopefully they`ll come back, because
I believe if that - if this election did anything, it helped to define what
you`ve just shown on the screen here that the majority of Americans would
love to see us get immigration settled, get people out of the shadows ...
CLYBURN: ... get them on to the tax rolls ...
CLYBURN: And hopefully the voting rolls as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, the tax rolls piece is important here. The
president is beginning to talk about the possibility of entitlement reform.
That entitlement reform is on the table. Is there a progressive way to do
entitlement reform? Is there something that the Democrats should be
willing to give on this, or ought we be holding a line on these issues?
CLYBURN: Oh, yes, there is a whole lot that we can do. Let`s just take,
you know, Medicare for instance. I think that the Medicare has a way to be
fixed. I met this past or two days ago with representatives from the AARP.
I have looked at Senator Begich from Alaska, a proposal he has put forth
for the fixed Social Security. I really believe there is a lot that can be
done. We just have to sit down and do it in a comprehensive way. I don`t
think you ought to do these things piecemeal. You know, Social Security
has nothing to do with the deficit ...
CLYBURN: And it ought to be dealt with as a separate issue, but it has a
lot to do with settling issues in the economy, because Social Security is a
wedge issue if you don`t get it fixed.
CLYBURN: So, let`s fix Social Security, keep it where it ought to be
walled off from everything else, then let`s take a hard look at how we
cackle these things when it comes to the Medicare and Medicaid.
HARRIS-PERRY: So there`s a sense of unlinking it from the sort of time-
pressed issues of - that are about the debt ceiling and that sort of thing,
because this is not really on that topic.
CLYBURN: It is not on that at all and we ought to de-link that in all of
our discussions, and I do belief the atmosphere is there for us to do so.
HARRIS-PERRY: Congressman Clyburn, I so appreciate you taking some time.
It`s nice to be in Washington where I can have the chance to speak with
CLYBURN: Well, thank you so much for being here with us. You are bringing
the little sunlight.
CLYBURN: I want to tell your viewers what I saw out here before we got ...
HARRIS-PERRY: The dancing that I do before the show. It does happen. Up
next, the insiders` guide to the gun control debate. You just heard about
the behind the scenes when we`re getting ready for Nerdland, well, there is
behind the scenes maneuvering on the big political issues of our day, and I
want to ask about those when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Everyone knows the term "inside baseball," but did you ever
wonder where that saying comes from? There is literally a baseball term.
In fact, it was a strategy developed by the 19th century Baltimore Orioles,
which relied not on big hits or home runs, but rather the minutia of
playing small ball or keeping the ball inside the infield, incrementally
building up runs from base hits, bunts, and stolen bases, playing the long
game through small wins. It is a baseball player`s baseball game,
requiring specific shared knowledge and language.
And it`s not just sports where knowing the rules of the inside game can
make all the difference. Let me take you to the original Nerdland, the
academy, where inside fights rarely make the news, but sometimes the topics
pack enough political heat to make professors into headliners. Take this
scandal. In 2000, a remarkable piece of academic work was published by the
then much respected Emory University historian, professor Michael
Bellesiles. In his book, "Arming America," he used hundreds of old
documents to prove that gun ownership was uncommon in the 18th century. He
went on to say that given the rarity of gun ownership, there is no way the
Founding Fathers intended the Second Amendment to ensure individual gun
ownership rights. It was a moment of triumph in the gun control debate,
when data, not polemic, proved the point.
Except it was not true. In an epic academic takedown a year later, a law
professor from Northwestern University, James Lindgren, went through
hundreds of pages of Bellesiles`s footnotes and found that much of the data
were falsified. In fact, there were far more guns in earlier America than
Bellesiles claimed. And Professor Bellesiles resigned from his tenured
job, and was stripped of his book awards.
But most damning of all, the research he`d hoped would make a case for gun
control only served to bolster the claims of the NRA
It`s an example of inside baseball. The minutia of academic footnotes and
the insiders game of a replicating data turned into a politically
consequential battle that shifted the discourse on guns in America. So in
the heat of our current debate, everyone has an opinion, but not everyone
knows the inside game. And I want to know what are the political footnotes
we should be checking if we want to get the real scoop on what is happening
in D.C. So let`s play a little small ball with some folks who know the
inside of Washington, D.C. With me is Marian Wright Edelman, founder and
president of the Children`s Defense Fund, also Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt of
Chapel Hill who is a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Lori Haas is a
gun violence prevention advocate. Her daughter Emily was shot and injured
in the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, in which 32 people were
murdered. And Amy Walter, the senior editor of the "Cook Political
Report." Thank you so much for being here, all of you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Amy, I actually want to start with you, because it feels to
me like the most important part of being an insider is knowing which
questions to ask, so what are the questions that we are not asking about
the current gun control discussion and battle in Washington that we ought
to be asking?
AMY WALTER, "THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT": Well, it seems like - as an
insider, I know that we like to talk a lot about policy, and we`re talking
a lot about the prescriptions, the actual policy that we - that a lot of
folks would like to see happen or would like to prevent from happening on
guns. And at the same time what`s missing in this discussion is the
cultural issues here, which I think we forget about in Washington that when
we talk about gun ownership here and in Nerdland, we talk about specific
policies, but I think for a lot of people, what gun ownership means, is not
about how many bullets you can buy or what kinds of guns you can own, it is
about a way of life, and there are a whole bunch of people in this country
who I think hear the debate in Washington, and say, but, wait a minute, I
own -- I`m not that person. I`m not a bad person or I don`t know anyone in
my community that would ever do anything like what happened at Virginia
Tech or ever do anything like what happened in Newtown, so why are we being
punished by people in Washington or big city mayors who come from a
different place than we do?
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting, Mark, I want to turn to you on exactly
that - having grown up in Virginia and then gone to college and the grad
school in North Carolina and now living in Louisiana, I get gun culture.
MAYOR MARK KLEINSCHMIDT, CHAPEL HILL, NC : Sure.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I`m a southerner, I get gun culture, and yet, here
you are the mayor of Chapel Hill, not Detroit, not Chicago, not even New
Orleans where we think of this gun violence issue as central, and yet, you
are saying this matters to us in the south in a relatively safe community,
and yet guns matter to you as a mayor.
KLEINSCHMIDT: Absolutely. And arguably the most important job that a
major has is to protect the health and welfare and safety of the citizens.
You know, five or six weeks ago, I am sure the mayor of Newtown would have
said to anyone, this is the last place in America that a tragedy like that
- like what happened could have occurred. We said that about ourselves in
Chapel Hill. A decade and a half ago we are - has passed since we had a
mentally ill man walk down Franklin Street, our main street ...
KLEINSCHMIDT: ... shooting and killing people. The last place in America
is our town. It is everyone`s hometown. The scourge of gun violence
certainly affects the cities that you have mentioned and the mayors are
responding, I believe, very bravely and strongly, but it is our town, too.
There isn`t - there`s not a place that is relatively safe or immune from
the scourge of gun violence.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, that piece about Newtown being the place where
things like this just don`t happen, but Virginia Tech was the sort of place
were things like this don`t happen. You send your child off to college,
you have - you know, you`ve done what your job is as the parent, right?
You`ve gotten them off to a great school, and then, and then this moment.
Does your testimony or your narrative as the parent of a survivor of this
kind of shooting help to shift who we think of as the players at the table,
the insiders who need to be there?
LORI HAAS, GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION ADVOCATE: I certainly hope so. The
reality is there are far too many families affected by gun violence in this
country. When you have over 11,000 murders and 30,000 deaths annually and
then, you know, 100,000 people shot annually. Think of the numbers of
families that is affecting, you know, negatively and horribly and
tragically in so many instances whether it is a, you know, a driveby
shooting and a child in an apartment in South Chicago or whether it`s a
six-year old and first grader in Newtown or my daughter at Virginia Tech in
her French classroom, you know, getting shot twice in the back of the head.
Gun violence knows no boundaries, it knows no, you know, culture or
backgrounds (INAUDIBLE), economics. It affects everybody in America, and I
think it`s incumbent upon us, those who have been affected by gun violence
personally, to speak up and take - contribute to the discussion. I think
we have relevance. I think we have a place at the table and frankly, you
know, public safety matters to everyone. It is our children. It is our
families. It is our neighborhoods. It is our communities regardless of
what they are and what they look like.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mrs. Edelman, I have to say one of the most stunning facts
to me post-Newtown has been the number of background checks, which are
indicative, therefore, of the number of people who are seeking new guns and
so we saw something like 2.2 million, an uptake of almost 60 percent, 58.7
percent from 2011, on December, of background checks. So, apparently a lot
of people getting guns for Christmas. What does that number like that tell
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN, CHILDREN`S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, I think that -
who are those people? But I think they may think that there is going to be
gun safety control issues, and they want to make sure they stock up in
advance. And so, I choose to say good news if they fear that perhaps this
is different and perhaps there really are going to be some significant
reforms, and I hope that that will be so. On the other hand, you know,
there is this great fear still out there that a gun makes you safer, when
in fact, the evidence as we`ve looked at it, says that if you keep a gun in
your home, it is much more likely it will make you less safe, both in terms
of suicides, because guns legalize danger, or you get angry, you know, and
you - if you didn`t have a gun, you know, you might have some harm and
violence, but it wouldn`t be fatal. You saw the Chinese knife killing
attempt, with the Chinese children, but none of those children died. But a
gun greatly increases the chance of harm to other people. And one of the
things I think we really have to begin to do is to talk about whether in
fact guns really do, as I think, the evidence shows, make us less safe, and
secondly, as a mother and as a grandmother and all of us need to understand
this is not just, you know, you are keeping a gun in your own house for
your own self-protection, you`ve got to be careful where your children
EDELMAN: ... your grandchildren play, and we do have to deal with that
deeper culture of violence, because they are pervasive and they are
everywhere, and I just hope that this has been a breakthrough. I mean
Aurora and lots of other shootings, Columbine, but we go back to doing
business as usual, but somehow this one feels differently because of the
age of the children and place, that none of us is safe anywhere.
HARRIS-PERRY: And in fact, it`s such a good point, as we go out to break
here. When we come back, we are going to be talking about local officials
who are leading the way on this, but as we go forward, I want to listen to
what the president had to say on this issue of all of those who have died
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In the month
since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from
us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have
reportedly died at the end of a gun. If there is even one thing we can do
to reduce this violence. If there`s even one life that can be saved, then
we`ve got an obligation to try.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D), NEW YORK: Yes, we`ve had tragedies, and yes, we`ve
had too many innocent people lose their life and yes, it is unfortunate
that it took those tragedies to get us to this point, but let`s at least
learn from what has happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signing the first
gun control legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School
mass shooting. The new laws, which expand the state`s ban on assault
weapons are thought to be some of the toughest gun control measure the
country has seen and while many are looking to the White House and Capitol
Hill to make sweeping gun reform legislation, perhaps swifter and more
effective action is likely to come on the local level. And so, mayor, I
want to ask you about exactly that. It looks like while Washington is
doing whatever it is doing on its inside game, localities are just moving
forward in the ways that they have to.
KLEINSCHMIDT: Yes, and, you know, for many of us though, we are
handcuffed. Some - for so long, gun control and gun regulation has been
taken as a federal issue, and even states, I`m very excited about New
York`s recent passage of some reforms, but even states have been aloft to
engage in this issue, and legislators and even I have been getting tons of
e-mails just for speaking on the issue and threats that I`m going to lose
my office. And I say, bring it on in Chapel Hill.
KLEINSCHMIDT: But, and so, a lot of it in locally is about culture change,
it`s about making sure that we have a conversations in our public squares,
in our public arenas that we are educating each other about what is
effective. Like - like background checks. We know they are effective.
KLEINSCHMIDT: And it`s - and if we are talking about how important they
are, if we can create a community awareness around these alternatives,
whether it is the Internet sales or gun show sales, if we make them less
likely to be options for people to purchase, if we create an environment
where you are not going to have a gun show in our community ...
KLEINSCHMIDT: That is really all we are allowed to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: So let me push on that a little bit, because that seems just
right to me. My concern about the prohibitionary things, the things that
led to the Heller decision initially with the D.C. City Council banning
handguns out right, and then in certain ways, leading the U.S. Supreme
Court to have an even stronger position on the Second Amendment, you get
into an 18th Amendment sort of prohibition problem, guns are - handguns in
particular are easily - people already have them, they are easily hidden,
you know, and it creates a black market for them. So I love this language
of culture change, because that is what we did with cigarettes, right? We
made it harder to smoke in public ...
HAAS: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: We sued the cigarette companies so that then they had to -
they had to actually pay to educate people against their own product. Is
that a possibility here?
HAAS: Yes, absolutely, I believe so. In Virginia, you know, I don`t talk
to a single person or audience, frankly, that does not understand the issue
of a background check. You know, when we volunteer with our children at
school or in church activities, we all have to undergo a background check.
When you go to get a puppy at the pound, you have to get a background
check, you virtually go through, you know, a home study to get a puppy.
So, the world, in which I work and live and play does understand the notion
of a background check. It`s a simple easy thing in Virginia. It`s the
average is about two minutes. And I talked to gun owners in all walks of
life. I have an uncle who has a farm out in the Empress County and they
said, what is the big deal? Well, I`ll get a background check. I`ll do
that. And we have been able to move that issue a little bit in Virginia.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, Virginia has been interesting to me ...
HARRIS-PERRY: We saw a state legislature on the floor brandishing an AK-47
while debating gun control, so we have that image actually coming out of
Virginia and at the same time a Virginia State Delegate Patrick Hope who
went in and purchased using kind of secret camera - went in and actually
purchased a gun at a gun show indicating exactly this - you know, gun show
loophole problem where you can so easily purchase a gun without a
HAAS: Well, we have been able to move some of the issues in Virginia. We
actually got a bill out on the Senate committee yesterday morning, much to
the chagrin of the NRA, their top lobbyist Chuck Cunningham is in the
building, and we`ve got the bill out at the Senate committee. We flipped
two people who were typically on the other side on the issue, voted with
us, and we got a bailout. He was spreading (ph) around the building all
day Friday trying to make sure that it doesn`t go anywhere on Monday, but,
you know, we are capable of moving this issue, we - Americans are with us,
in poll after poll and I think we are going to get something done.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mayor, I want to give your the last word on this particular
part, what is the thing that localities ought to be doing right now?
KLEINSCHMIDT: There is another important thing that mayors around - around
the country are committing this week to do, which is going back and
discovering, and getting information on where ammunition purchases are
coming from, where our guns are coming from, because as the - one of the
largest source of, you know, the largest purchases of ammunition and
weapons in the country are municipalities ...
KLEINSCHMIDT: We have - we have the influence over those manufacturers,
and we haven`t used that leverage. They are - once you are funding the NRA
in our state legislators and in Congress, my citizens are purchasing
ammunition and weapons, giving it to manufacturers. They are then using
their money to lobby against -- against reasonable gun control.
KLEINSCHMIDT: And this is an opportunity for us, and many of us have
committed to do this, I`ve already talked - been doing - talks with my
police chief and so are mayors around the country.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, following that money helps to reveal that to your
constituents. Thank you, to both Lori and to Mayor Kleinschmidt. And
Marian Edelman and Amy are going to be back with us later, but up next, we
have Congressman Xavier Becerra on the inside game of immigration politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIKA ANDIOLA: Hello, my name is Erika Andiola. And if I`m talking to you
right now, it`s because my mother and my brother were just taken by
immigration and it needs to stop. We need to do something, we need to stop
separating families, and this is real. This is just so real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Last week Erica posted the video to Youtube. That video
told the world about the detainment of her mother and her brother in
Arizona. She is already an immigration rights leader and co-founder of the
state`s Dream Act, so Erica knew how to mobilize en masse, officials were
inundated with calls and pleas for the release of Erica`s family, and by
the next morning her mother and her brother were able to go home. She is
accustomed to working the system from the outside, but Erica is now on the
inside, having joined the staff of newly seated Congresswoman Kyrsten
Sinema, and as she points out herself, Erica is one of only hundreds of
thousands of people who have faced the threat of a family being torn apart.
And for many families across the country, their story doesn`t end as well
as Erika`s has. While President Obama recently moved to ease the
separation of families going through immigration proceedings, far reaching
immigration reform has yet to come to fruition. My next guest will have a
hand in shaping what that reform may look like, California Congressman
Xavier Becerra is the chairman of the House Democratic caucus and also, a
member of the congressional Hispanic caucus. So nice to have you here
REP. XAVIER BECERRA, (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks, boss.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that appeal is so moving, but I wonder on the inside of
Washington, so it moved people who are seeing it on Youtube, does it move
BECERRA: I think for some of us who are children of immigrants ...
BECERRA: For those who go home and see these families all the time,
absolutely it does. Some members, I suspect they want to continue with
this deport everyone policy. We are going to get there, it`s no longer a
matter of if we`re going to have immigration reform, it`s when, and I
believe it will be this year. And it`s because I believe there is the
bipartisan will to get it done.
HARRIS-PERRY: Americans seem to be behind some form of reasonable
HARRIS-PERRY: You have the public opinion poll demonstrating that even for
those who are in the country illegally, there is a great deal of favoring
of amnesty, 52 percent, favoring amnesty for undocumented immigrants who
are employed. This recognition of how important that labor, that work,
those contributions are. Do we build on that 52 percent?
BECERRA: And Melissa, if the word amnesty weren`t used, because no one is
talking about amnesty, the support goes way beyond ...
BECERRA: 50 percent, it goes into the 70s, 80 percent. Americans want a
solution. They know our immigration system is broken, and they are ready
to see something happen. The people are way ahead of the politicians on
this one, way ahead. And most of them will tell you, these immigrant
Americans, because that is what they are, they are Americans who are
BECERRA: ... are part of this aspiring class, that`s what I call them.
The aspiring class. They work hard, they do everything the right way.
They are that next generation that will create those leaders, those
innovators or so we`re going to get there. It`s just that there is this
Neanderthal element in Congress that continues to hold us back, but we will
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels to me like there was - like there was another
moment, one that we`re going to be talking about in the course of the next
three days or so, that was very similar to this: a social movement of
people impacted by unfair policies that had an enormous impact on their
economic circumstances, on their family circumstances, and they pushed an
American president LBJ, to bring civil rights legislation. Is that what we
are seeing here?
BECERRA: In many respects. In fact, one of the proud moments that some of
us have seen in Congress is when every single member of the Black Caucus
supported the efforts of the Hispanic Caucus to push forward the Dream Act
in the House of Representatives. And while there`s some time some debates
whether black and brown are working well together, there is no doubt in the
Congress, the African-American members of Congress and the Latino members
of Congress are working hand in hand in immigration reform, because
remember, it`s not just Mexican immigrants, it`s Haitian immigrants ...
BECERRA: It`s African immigrants ...`
BECERRA: And so we have to do this together, we`re going to get there. It
is one of those issues where if you have a tough, smart, but fair proposal,
every American will say that is the way to go.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to look at Marco Rubio`s proposal, because but -
because I think he would define his proposal as such. Let`s listen to Mr.
Rubio for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: You may notice, I have been very tough on
this issue, and border security, but it is getting better. The stats show
it is getting better, I think they have a handle on it now, and I like your
program, I think it`s fair. So I want you and President Obama to get on
the phone and get this thing before it turns into a bloody mess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, so that wasn`t actually - that`s Marco Rubio talking,
well, who we heard speaking there, but the very idea that Bill O`Reilly is
like, let`s move forward. I mean so apparently Bill O`Reilly and I can sit
together and be like, all right, we`ve got to get something done. Is this
an indication there is going to be some bipartisan movement on this one
BECERRA: I believe so. Remember, the voice is back in `07 when we last
tried, the legislature, to push this through, the voices out in the radio
world, TV world from the far right, were just adamant, you`ve got to kill
this thing. Now you have folks saying, you`ve got to get it done. The
U.S. Chamber of Commerce is working with labor to get this done. We`re
going to make it happen. Marco Rubio is talking now about things that we
have been talking about for over ten years ...
BECERRA: So that`s good. We`re starting to see Republicans to come
forward and say what Americans have been saying. The average American
says, make it practical, make it sensible, make it tough, but make it fair.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you think the White House also learned to listen on this,
because it feels like a lot of this shift happened when the president took
that executive step for, you know, baby Dream Act, for deferred action and
said, I should do have some power here and I`m going to exercise it.
BECERRA: Melissa, I think you are absolutely right, you crystallized. The
president tried and tried and tried and Republicans kept on putting
obstacle after obstacle. And he finally said, I can`t continue to wait,
I`m going to do this. A lot of folks said don`t do it, it is terrible,
it`s a political year, election year. He said, I`m going to do this. And
guess what? The public, by over two thirds, said, yeah, it makes sense.
BECERRA: And so I think it empowered him to believe that the public is
ready to help us push Congress to get this done.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much for joining us. This is so much fun being
in D.C., I get to see the sitting members of Congress. So I greatly
appreciate it. And up next, the Democratic leader who could stand in the
way of an assault weapons ban. I`ve got a letter, and it is to Senator
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama drew a line in the sand this week when he
unveiled his policies to take on gun violence. The most ambitious of those
plans, reinstating and strengthening the assault weapons ban is going to
require congressional support if it is to become a reality, but given the
resistance that the president faced from the House Republicans during the
fiscal cliff showdown, nobody is expecting that support to come easily,
only so far some of the most vocal resistance is not coming from the
Republicans in the House, it is coming from the number one Democrat in the
Senate. Maybe he just needs a little encouragement, so in this week`s Open
Letter, I want to give it to him.
Senator Harry Reid, it is me, Melissa, and I`d like to draw your attention
to one word in your Senate title that it seems you may have forgotten, you
are the Senate Majority Leader, the operative word being leader. That
title represents a vote of confidence in your ability to forge a path on
legislation that is right for the country even when, especially when what
is right is not necessarily what is easy. Yet, there you were the week
before the president released his proposals to address gun violence
throwing in the towel before the fight had even begun.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NEVADA), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Is it something that
can pass the Senate? Maybe. Is it something that can pass the House? I
doubt it. I don`t think we need to pinpoint any one thing now, I think we
have to be very cool and cautious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, senator, we must be thoughtful and deliberate in our
policy response to the tragedy in Newtown. But we must also be bold and
take action when the time is right, and that time is now, right now, the
people are ready for change. 58 percent of adults and 59 percent of
registered voters now support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault
weapons, and at what other time will the confluence of public passion and
political will give us the opportunity to make meaningful change on the
issue of gun violence? It is up to you, a leader of leaders to seize the
moment and make it happen. In other words, senator, with all due respect,
it is time to grow a pair. A pair of ovaries, that is, because maybe that
will help you woman up and be more like your colleague, Senator Dianne
Einstein, she like you, sees the challenges waiting ahead in the House, but
unlike you, she possesses the courage of her convictions. Instead of
retreating from the fight, she is charging ahead with a pledge to introduce
legislation to reinstate the assault weapons ban, because she knows what
you seem to have forgotten, that, quote, "You have to try, you can`t sit
back and just let the gun organizations call public policy."
Even when those gun organizations are your friends, that is right, Senator,
we saw you in 2010, buddying up to the NRA leader Wayne LaPierre in the
opening of a new gun park in Nevada. You even fired off a few shots to
celebrate the occasion. In fact, in the past, you have been so supportive
of the NRA`s agenda that they have awarded you a B-grade on their
legislative report card. And Wayne LaPierre hailed you as "a true champion
of the Second Amendment." I get it, Senator Reid. You love your guns, you
really love the NRA`s ability to help you get reelected, but right now your
country needs you to be a champion for a higher cause, because maybe you
are right, and the assault weapons ban will not survive the House, but in
this moment in the U.S. Senate, let history record that Harry Reid took a
stand when the people were ready and willing to follow Harry Reid led.
HARRIS-PERRY: While President Obama is gearing up for his second term and
the next round in the fiscal fight, there is one thing both he and Congress
must keep in mind, comprehensive economic policy cannot solely focus on the
middle and upper class, it must include the least among us, those who
cannot fend for themselves -- children. A new campaign by the Children`s
Defense Fund called "Be careful what you cut" is a call to action to
remember the nation`s children when making decisions about the economy.
And why is it so important? Because the latest numbers show that 16
million children, or nearly 22 percent, are living in poverty, and the
number of children in extreme poverty, 7.3 million or 9.8 percent. In
general, children are the poorest age group, and the younger they are, the
poorer they are. The numbers tell the tale, and if Washington refuses to
include poor children in the economic equation and the number of children
in poverty then will surely increase.
Joining me to discuss this report is Marian Wright Edelman, founder and
president of the Children`s Defense Fund. Thank you so much.
EDELMAN: Thank you for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, here we are, we are once again going to have a
conversation about the budget. What do the Congress and the president need
to keep in mind as they go forward?
EDELMAN: That they have got to invest in children. Out of self-interest,
out of national security, and out of just plain old decency. It is
disgraceful that we let children be the poorest group of Americans, and we
know how important early brain development is, and we have got to close the
gap between what we know and what we do.
Listen, if we -- the foundation of your house is crumbling, you don`t say
you can`t afford to fix it, and so we have laid out and have an proactive
investment agenda to make sure that every child gets health care, and we
are going to go out and take advantage of the new Affordable Act, Care Act,
which will be a major impetus of getting people on Medicaid and children so
they would have a healthy start. Got to have a safe start, so that we`re
going to try to deal with the gun safety issue. We have been issuing these
reports for 20 years of gun violence and children. There has been some
progress, but now it is reversing, and we learned about it first in the
black community, who said that it is the top issue in the black community
when we did polls and focus groups, was our children won`t live to
I was astonishing. And so we started an anti-gun violence campaign. It
was 16 a day children dying every day. It`s now 7, almost 8, so there`s
been progress, but now it is obscene to have 300 million guns. And here we
are about to celebrate our nonviolence prophet`s birthday, and we should
remember that since 1968, when Dr. King was assassinated and Robert Kennedy
was assassinated, we have lost 1,300,000 Americans to gun violence, where
they have either killed themselves for killed other people. What is this
obsession and this romance and this cultural addiction to guns and to
violence? Just look at that, this is more American gun deaths of our
killing ourselves and other people than all of the battle deaths in every
war we have been in since the Revolutionary War. We must confront it. It
is -- and our poor children are the ones who are the most affected, because
they are terrified trying to go to and from school, and now it has happened
to all of us.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it feels like this point, the thing is, we know that
there are some solutions. So like when I hear you talk, part of me just
thinks, oh, this feels so huge. And yet, when we look at poverty rates by
age, right, when we look at sort of the fact that the elderly are much less
poor now than they once were, and they are much less poor now because we
actively intervened. So you can look at poverty rates across time by age,
and what you see is when we introduced Medicare and when we introduced
Social Security, creating a social safety net for the elderly, the poverty
rate of the elderly dropped and it stayed down, but for young people, and
particularly for children, it has begun to tick back up. So how do we take
the lesson we know from that and create the social safety net for children?
EDELMAN: Well, it is not an issue of what to do. We know how to end
poverty for children, OK? It`s (inaudible) jobs and we have got to have a
jobs debate. We`ve got to deal with the structural change in the economy,
the low-wage economy, and we`ve to make work pay. And expanding the earned
income tax credit, the child tax credit, and doing other work incentive
things will make a huge difference to many.
Increasing the safety net. Don`t cut early education, try to begin to make
sure that you are breaking through those things that cause dependency, so
we are really working very hard to say, let`s make sure every child is
ready for school, that every child has high quality pre-K and kindergarten,
and if you did that, you could also create new jobs, but here we have got
new race to the top requirements. Common (inaudible) standards, but we
don`t have pre-K or we don`t have kindergarten in 40 states to help
children meet those standards.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to underline your point about parental job security
and wages. Part of the report says that in no I state can an individual
working full-time at the minimum wage afford the fair market rent for a
two-bedroom apartment for his or her family. When I read that, I thought,
OK, so if you are a working parent, and you are working full time at a
minimum wage job, doing the best you can, we`ve created the circumstance
where our minimum wage does not allow you to have an apartment.
EDELMAN: You cannot have decent housing, and homelessness, as you know, is
rampant, just as hunger is rampant. And if it weren`t for the safety net,
it would be even worse. Children were the poorest Americans before the
recession, and the recession has been a disaster.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us, we`re going to talk more about this, and also
about whether or not it makes a difference on these kinds of questions when
in fact we have women who are making the policy. Also, we will talk more
about the 40 years after Roe v. Wade and why so many have no idea what the
landmark decision is even about. There is more Nerdland at the top of the
hour from D.C.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: Welcome back. I `m Melissa Harris-Perry
in Washington, D.C.
And we are coming to you live from the nation`s capital this weekend
as preparations are under way for the second inauguration of President
And, of course, beyond the president`s second inauguration everybody
is talking about the second term and the issues that President Obama will
tackle in the next four years. Which brings me to the following questions:
are there any such things as women issues?
You see, traditionally women`s issues were defined as policies that
emerged from the women`s domestic roles as wife and for example in a bygone
era, many thought that women were deeply interested in education, but not
particularly engaged in global monetary policy.
Then, the second way feminism ushered in a whole new vision of what
women cared about, equal pay, reproductive rights, and determination to
engage in all areas of public life, but not just those set aside for the
But let`s complicate it even further. Women are not a monolithic
group. There are differences of race, class, sexual orientation and
definitely a partisan identification as was demonstrated in the last
election. Maybe we can`t be sure what counts as a women`s issue, but it
sure seems we expect women officeholders to shoulder the responsibility for
making sure that these issues, whatever they are, get addressed.
With the record number of women now serving in Congress, will it
change the way that Washington works on issues or the issues that it works
At the table with me: Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report; Marian
Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children`s Defense Fund;
Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass of California; and Stephanie Schriock,
president of Emily`s List.
So nice to have you all here.
So, Stephanie, you work fundamentally to get more women elected. Is
that because you believe that women govern differently?
STEPHANIE SCHRIOCK, EMILY`S LIST: Yes, we sure do. And Emily`s List
really believes that we`re going to get to the right policies in this
country when we have an equal number of women and men sitting at the table.
And this past election, though, we really feel was a mandate for women`s
leadership. We saw historic numbers of women elected to Congress. We have
a long ways to go, and we are far from done.
But we also saw in some of the research that when we explained to
independent women voters in particular that there was a historic number of
women, they really believe it`s going to make a difference. And the truth
is it will.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stephanie, it feels to me also like part of what
Emily`s list made a decision to do was to say, yes, we support women, but
we also support women -- and one of the key issues is reproductive rights.
Congresswoman, is that -- is that the, the sort of breaking point
with women? Or are women able to work together in the House of
Representatives, in the Senate, regardless of the pro-choice/pro-life
REP. KAREN BASS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think that`s an important
divide, but I do think that women work across the board on issues, and
women work differently. And I do think that it makes -- it`s going to make
a big difference this time to have so many women there. So the pro-choice
issue is absolutely critical, but there are many other issues that we know
HARRIS-PERRY: And I`m wondering, Ms. Edelman, if one of the things
is -- as much as I said there`s not one set of women`s issue, if childhood
poverty becomes one of the spaces where Democratic and the Republican women
alike may have a vision for being able to implement some of the policies
that the Children`s Defense Fund is thinking about. I love these really
provocative ads about the impact of childhood poverty and the idea that
children who start out poor end up with a much larger, greater likelihood
of ending up in prison, who much greater likelihood of ending up, homeless,
much greater likelihood of ending up pregnant as teens, and so actually you
put these faces on the social conditions.
Is this how the women legislators in part see the world, that it is
their children who might end up in these spaces?
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN, CHILDREN`S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, I think so.
And I think that they`ve got to raise a raucous to make sure that every
child has a level playing field and every child is safe. Women have to
take care of the children primarily and we are getting better, but child
care and a range of work supports are crucial.
Women, as we know, 6 percent of them are single parents and they
can`t always -- you know, in the black community, can`t always make the
ends meet, and the wages have to be -- and we have to deal with wages. We
need to deal with jobs. We need to deal with work support. We need to
deal with safety.
I love a comment from a mother the other day who said that mothers
have to become single-issue voters on gun violence, I don`t care who we
are, because the NRA is a single issue lobbyist and we have got to
determined, we`re going to keep our children safe.
So, I think because women still are, you know, the primary caregivers
in some ways, despite the progress we`ve made, we have to have an agenda
that supports the families and the children and it`s economic, it is
social, it`s cultural, but it is also now before us, I think that women are
the key to the gun violence change.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is fascinating, because what I just did is
what I said that we shouldn`t do which is to essentialize women, right?
And I said, women are moms and women care about kids, but yet, there is a
way in which we see women legislators in fact in states and in the national
government introducing legislation that is quite different than the male
counterparts in the same party.
AMY WALTER, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: You know, I sat in many focus
groups during the 2012 elections, as I`m sure all of you did as well. And
a lot of them were the swing women voters, because they were going to
determine this election.
And what was s fascinating is when you brought up a topic, they put
it through -- many of them put it through the lens of their kids, right?
So, yes, you can talk about the economy. Yes, you can talk about whether
in this case, they were really concerned about bullying in schools. They
were really concerned and what it meant for them to have a job or not have
a job and how they were going to balance getting their kids to and from day
What did it mean for them that their parent lost the job and she was
the person who was helped them to meet ends to meet. That`s where -- that
was the lens through which they saw the world. So, I do think reaching
women is through that lens is important.
But the other thing and this is what is fascinating about --
HARRIS-PERRY: And you don`t want to be Ann Romney doing, "I love you
women." And that felt like whoa!
WALTER: Right. I mean, the other thing we have to recognize those,
too, and this is what is interesting about the new class that came in is
that we have to get women who are from different age groups, different --
come from different backgrounds and at the same time they are going into a
system that is still not only still dominated, of course, by men at the top
who are the committee chairman, et cetera, but it is a system that is
created by men.
BASS: Old boy`s club.
WALTER: It is. So you have to sort of get in there. And the
question -- and this is really the question for you which is: do you then
say, we`re going to change this culture or we are going to be just like
them in order to fit into that culture?
BASS: No, never.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Wait, wait --
BASS: Absolutely never. I think that women lead different. I think
women govern different. I think women behave different.
And let me --
WALTER: Even generationally you think so?
BASS: Well, I`m not sure, but let me give you a couple of examples.
And I think women are much more collective and collaborative. Men are more
And so, an example is, a new women comes into Congress and a lot of
women will go out of their way to help her, versus -- and I`m not saying
the men are necessarily mean to each other, but I think they are more
individual-focused and we are more collective-focused.
SCHRIOCK: And I would say, there does seem to be so much competition
amongst the men. You know, I look at the United States Senate and here we
have 20 women in the United States Senate for the first time in history.
First time in history, though, and I have to remind everybody, there
are 100 members of the senate and 80 men still there.
But to look at Patty Murray who is chairing budget, Dianne Feinstein
on Intelligence, and Barbara Mikulski, chairing Appropriations. I mean, I
mean, it takes time to keep this pipeline, because the system is set up
about seniority. And it takes a long time to get there.
HARRIS-PERRY: But the other critical pipeline is at the state level,
right? So when you look at the governors and I love the story of the
images of the 113th Congress, but then when I think of Jan Brewer and Nikki
Haley I become a little less convinced or Susana Martinez, that women are
governing differently. I think, oh, well, though, that seems to be more
explained by partisanship than by gender.
BASS: Well, I think it`s a difference, but look at the House. We
have Nancy Pelosi as the leader, and although, Boehner is the Republican
speaker, but all of us view Nancy Pelosi as the Democratic speaker and look
at the leader that she`s been. She is very strong, very forceful, but she
is still a leader that brings everybody together.
And Boehner clearly has been unable to do that.
But, you know, politics and your ideology is absolutely critical.
So, I wouldn`t necessarily look to the women that you just describe to
behave in that way. So, I do think it`s gender, but it`s also ideology.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. It`s that crosscut. Let me ask you as we go
to a break Mrs. Edelman. What is the thing that you would ask the new
class, the 113th Congress, to do relative to the policy immediately on
children`s poverty issues?
EDELMAN: We have got to have a jobs program and we have got to have,
you know, the strong, early childhood system that includes comprehensive
child care to help people work and not sacrifice their children and we`ve
got to begin to break in and prevent and intervene early and Karen has just
gotten something wonderful through to help foster care children. But we
have to have a get a first rate quality system to foster work and foster
the health and development of children, and break this cycle of dependency.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I am feeling -- maybe it`s the inauguration air,
but I am feeling a sense of -- this 113th Congress is going to feel
different and actually do something that the 112th can`t, and I am going to
speak that to the world and perhaps it will be true.
Thank you to Marian Wright Edelman for being here today. We so value
the work that you do.
But don`t go away out there in Nerdland, because we are still talking
about women taking charge in Washington and how they`re going to shape the
political process when we get back.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are back with more Nerdland on our D.C. road trip
and we are here in the nation`s capital today.
Joining the panel now, Nia-Malika Henderson, political reporter for
"The Washington Post." So, as we continue to try to think about what
difference women make, you have been covering Washington for a long time.
Is it different when women`s voices are a part of the story?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think it`s certainly is
different and we saw it from the 2012 campaign. And that focus on women in
this influx, 20 women in the Senate.
There had been when Clinton ran, she gave that famous speech about 18
cracks in the glass ceiling. I think lots of talk about now whether she
runs going forward, what sort of women are in the pipeline for 2016 and all
sorts of offices.
So I think it changes the dynamic of conversation. And I think one
of the ways, one of the ways we should look at is this gun control debate,
and how it`s being framed around women, around schools, and you saw for
instance, some of the gun rights lobby talk about women needing guns to
protect themselves. So I think that this is going to be an issue and look
at some of the key senators like Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, folks who are up
for re-election as this debate goes forward.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, if that`s true and if we buy that women -- whether
or not a Republican brings something unique, then should we be critical of
the president`s current cabinet choices for the second term? And the thing
is that I get that I would most of the time as a matter of policy even
before having a Democratic man or Republican woman on a whole variety of
policy issue. But it also feels like we can`t say simultaneously it makes
a difference of having a lot of women in the room and say, oh, it`s no big
deal that the president`s second cabinet has fewer women in it.
HENDERSON: Yes. I have not said that it makes no difference. I
think it does make a difference, and I think people were right to criticize
when that photo came out in "The New York Times" -- all of those men, you
saw Valerie Jarrett`s leg, but in some ways, that --
HARRIS-PERRY: I have no worry about Valerie Jarrett getting her
voice heard whenever she wants to use it.
HENDERSON: She is very much a major player in the White House, but
at the top levels of the cabinet in that inner circle, it is a primarily
SCHRIOCK: I want to nuance this a little bit, because this is also
the first president in the history of our nation to put two women on the
United States Supreme Court. He had Secretary Hillary Clinton. He wanted
So, it wasn`t for lack of trying. The Republicans made sure it did
not happen, and he is maintaining, you know, Kathleen Sebelius who is one
of the great governor and now a great secretary and Janet Napolitano,
another great governor. We`re talking about two that we would have -- I`m
torn. So, they`re great cabinet secretaries.
HARRIS-PERRY: We don`t like cabinet secretaries as president. We
SCHRIOCK: And these are good women.
WALTER: But that, to me, is the bigger question. And I think for a
lot of the Democrats, the bigger concern should not be the cabinet in 2013,
it should be the pipeline in 2016 of women.
And Senate is great and Congress is great, and no offense, but people
don`t like Congress so much these days -- I don`t know if you know that.
So the good place for presidents is governorships, and right now,
Republicans definitely are winning on this that game, both in diversity,
it`s not just women, but ethnic diversity. And when you have one
Democratic governor, and that`s the place I think where if Democrats are
looking to, where`s our pipeline, that`s where it is coming from.
BASS: But, you know, I actually think it`s all so important. So,
the cabinet -- I think it`s going to be very important to see what happens
moving forward in terms of the president`s selections, but I do think that
if we look back at what his first term was, I think that the staff was
roughly 50-50. Women were paid equally if not more. So, I think he has a
good track record. And I will certainly be looking forward to who he
I do have, you know, a lot of confidence that it is doing be much
more diversity, and whoever published that picture, that was a mess.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s just the situation.
HENDERSON: It was not photoshopped.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And I think the Democrats were open to it in
part because we have been harping on the picture of the image of the all-
male congressional committees that have been talking about birth control.
We have been talking optics are on the table.
But I don`t want to miss this point about the Supreme Court, in part
because what a president does relative to the Supreme Court is perhaps the
most important thing, because it outlasts the president, right? They are
there way longer than the president, two women.
But there`s a lot of federal positions on the bench that are still
left that are simply not filled in part because of congressional inaction
at the Senate level.
BASS: So that calls for a lot of advocacy on our part, number one,
to find out which women are potentially waiting to be appointed and two, to
advocate that they get the appoints and that that Senate does not able to
SCHRIOCK: And I think we`re back to the past election, I really
believe was a mandate for women`s leadership, and now that we have 20 women
in the United States Senate, 16 of them Democrats, we have a slightly
larger margin of Democrats in the Senate, it should be helping getting
these appointments through.
There are -- it`s a mile-long, the list of appointments that the
Republicans have absolutely blocked for judgeships and beyond. I mean,
government appointments -- I mean, I was in the United States Senate as a
chief of staff when President Obama first came in, it took us over a year
to get U.S. attorneys and U.S. marshals through.
This system has to change. The president should be allowed the make
these appointments, and the Senate, yes, of course, they should look it.
But they also need to move it quickly, and we need these. And there is
diversity in the judges and women in the judge, and our system needs these
judges in place.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. This is so important to just point out that as
much as we can have a critique of the moment, we also have to recognize
that the president has been hamstrung over and over again by the Senate.
And, of course, we won`t level a critique at the government that we don`t
level at ourselves.
So, when we come back, we want to ask about the women in media, the
women covering Washington -- an inside look at who`s got the power. Our
cabinet picture is pretty darn male, too, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: When her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was
president, Eleanor Roosevelt became the first, first lady to hold her own
press conference. And these press conferences came with a catch -- they
were for women reporters only. Women were typically barred from the
presidential press conferences. So, Mrs. Roosevelt only allowed women to
Nearly 70 years after FDR, we see a lot of women covering the White
House. But among the five major networks, four still employ men as their
chief White House correspondent. So folks who sit on the front row in the
White House briefing room are still mostly fellows, including our own Chuck
Jessica Yellin and Brianna Keilar share the White House duties for
CNN. And joining them on the front row is Julia Pace, newly named as "The
Associated Press`" White House correspondent.
But I want to come back to my panel and ask a little bit more about
this question, because again, if women in the room matter, and if we are
all critiquing the president`s picture, the fact is our picture is full of
a lot of guys, too.
WALTER: Well, you know, and we were on the campaign trail together,
Nia, and I during the 2012 election. And the one thing I will say is,
there were a lot of women in the campaign bus. This wasn`t boys on the bus
Here to me is the threshold question, though, which is there were a
lot of young women who were what we call campaign embeds for the networks.
They`re the ones who are carrying the cameras. They`re the ones who are
getting all the shots. They`re usually very young and they`re working
harder than anyone else. Almost, and I would say a majority of them are
HENDERSON: Yes, yes.
WALTER: But what I worry about is that they are not going to make it
up through, that`s what we have to test or we`re going to have to check in
the next 10 years, did they make it up to the highest ranks? Because
usually that is the place where you did your duty there, you got the payoff
then into big jobs. And I want to make sure that they do get there.
But what I fear is that what made them so good in those jobs which is
everything that we are talking about, they`re collegial, they work, they
didn`t think about themselves, they weren`t -- and the next step --
WALTER: But they are thinking to do that job, you have to be very
community organize and you are worried about your correspondent, and the
people higher up, and you are not necessarily thinking about your own
political future and your own job future. So what I worry is that they do
very well in those jobs, but then the boys who are thinking about the next
step over them.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is the nice girls finish last narrative.
WALTER: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: This idea that the very things like sort of get you in
the door may, in fact, make it more difficult for him to move up that
HENDERSON: That`s right. Because it takes some sharp elbows and we
saw these young folks who are on the plane, mainly women, the big boys
would come in and they would get the stories. I think it`s is up to these
networks, up to these outlets, "The Washington Post", "The New York Times",
to identify young folks, young women, who are in the pipeline and to give
them some support and mentoring.
You don`t often see that -- well, you don`t see it at all in
Washington, and I will say even for myself, and I think that it is
particularly glaring that there are not a lot of African-American women
doing this at all. I mean, sometimes --
BASS: The issue of diversity.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that`s right.
HENDERSON: I sometimes count myself, and it`s, you know, maybe 10 or
so African-American women and I don`t even know if I have gotten to 10 on
the list here. It`s Gwen Ifill, Helene Cooper, you know, involved in
national politics. So, it`s a real, real issue.
SCHRIOCK: Well, when I look at this, we definitely want to see women
everywhere. And one of the things -- I want to put it on us. There`s a
little bit of putting it on us here. Those of us who have been successful,
who have gotten through the ranks and are now in positions to help, we need
to help young women. We can`t just say, it`s up for you to find your way
There is a network of about 250 years in this country of men working
together. They know each other, and they are friends and they think about
it first. Our network may be 30, 40, and maybe, 40 years old.
SCHRIOCK: And we have to use it better.
And when I look at what we have done at Emily`s List and one of the
reasons that we have this great cycle is that for 28 years, Emily`s List
has been building this network on the elected officials side and making
sure that there`s women running for the legislature.
So when those House seats open up, and someone who is great in the
California assembly can run for that Congress seat, and then ultimately for
Senate, and for governor, it is about this pipeline. But we`ve got to keep
working on it everyday.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stephanie, it`s such a good point. Emily is not
someone`s name. Emily is an acronym that means Early Money, right? Early
Money is Like Yeast, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: And yeast, of course, is about the little pellets that
you plant early that turn into something.
Thank you, Stephanie Schriock, for joining us.
Today, everybody else is going to stay with me for a little bit
longer, because I think I`m going to count our network at 40 years. Why?
Because we are right now at 40 years after Roe versus Wade.
And yet when we ask young people about it, it turns out a majority of
them don`t even know what the landmark case is about -- I`m serious -- when
we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Many of the women who will celebrate President Obama`s
second inauguration this Monday will also be celebrating on Tuesday -- the
day marking the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Now, it turns out that most young people will not be celebrating, but
not necessarily because they oppose reproductive rights, but it`s because
they don`t know what the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision did.
A new Pew Research Center poll finds that only 44 percent of the age
group born after Roe, 18 to 29 year olds, know what Roe was about and that
it was about abortion.
So, how do we protect the privacies guaranteed by Roe for future
generations if those future generations don`t know why they have them?
Joining my panel now is president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile
So, I just -- I want the show you the Guttmacher chart that I think
is the one that just takes all of our breath away over and over again,
that, you know, `73, you have the Roe and then beginning in `85 and then
kind of continuing forward, you have all of the states that begin chipping
away at it, and then the enormous spike in 2010-2011 of just coming for the
rights that were initially secured by Roe v. Wade.
CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: What does that tell you?
RICHARDS: Well, I think what it tells you is that in the 2010
elections, the Tea Party dominated those elections. And in fact, you look
at the Pew Research poll that came out this week, Americans consistently
and have for decades support women`s access to safe and legal abortion,
whether they call it Roe or they know the name or not, and that, in fact,
politicians, particularly the United States House of Representatives --
sorry, Congresswoman, because I know you are doing everything that you can
there -- and state legislatures around the country, are absolutely out of
step with where the American people are, women and men.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s funny, because you say that the Tea Party came in
2010, but they did not come in on a pro-life agenda. I mean, I think part
of that was so stunning, as they said, we are here about the clean
government, we`re here about taxes. we`re here about spending. Oh, yes, by
the way, your right to privacy, not so much.
BASS: Isn`t it interesting? And from the party that says they want
less government, they don`t want the government involved -- get the
government out of our lives, except, we`re going to tell the doctor what to
do in an exam room is just --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Get it out of the lives and put it on the end of
a transvaginal probe because it is a nice small government to fit right
BASS: But I do think some of my colleagues need biology lesson, I
mean, because those who believe there are magical powers.
I remember when I first got there that we had a whole week to have
hearings to talk about and contemplate rape and what is it, and should we
redefine it? So, when Todd Akin did that in his race, he was a scapegoat,
because they had been hearings about that, right?
RICHARDS: Exactly right.
BASS: They were all talking about it.
RICHARDS: Well, I think it`s important that, you know, we look at
the last -- in the November elections, which we are -- resoundingly,
candidates who opposed Roe, who opposed Planned Parenthood, who opposed
birth control were defeated, not only the Todd Akins, but I mean, Mitt
Romney ran as a presidential candidate on a platform to overturn Roe, to
get rid of Planned Parenthood, and was beaten by the biggest gender gap
ever in history that`s been recorded.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, what we see, is that these -- even if you say
overturning Roe and people push back against that, in a current piece on
"The Nation", and in "The Nation" magazine and by the editors, they say,
OK, where are we 40 years after Roe? What they find is that 87 percent of
U.S. counties lack an abortion provider and that several states have only a
clinic or two staffed by a doctor who flies in from another state. So it`s
legal, but you can`t access it.
HENDERSON: I think that`s a real problem. I think that on the
national level, sort of the national politicians have won the race, if you
look at 2012. But on the state level, there is a consistent erosion in
terms of access to abortion, in terms of abortion rights. And I think that
young people, if polls are to be believed and they voted for Democrats and
believe that abortion should be legal, I think feminist groups and pro-
abortion groups have to find a way to engage those folks and educate them
because they`re going to be the ones that are on the grassroot levels and
at the state levels looking to --
RICHARDS: And I`d say, in that vein, what we saw in Planned
Parenthood over the last two years when we had unrelenting assaults at the
state and the federal level, not only about safe and legal abortions, but
even just the ability to access birth control, an explosion of young people
joining Planned Parenthood as activists, as donors and as supporters.
So, I actually I feel like, in many ways, they may not know what Roe
means, but they know it when someone says, we`re going to now take away
rights that you have.
So I actually believe that it is the long haul, it`s backfired, these
attacks, because it has woken up a whole new generation of young women and
HARRIS-PERRY: But I wonder if you don`t we need to push harder given
So, I`m a supporter of Planned Parenthood as you know, and of
reproductive rights, but I also know that the part of what Public
Parenthood has done in the public discourse it says, a lot of what we do is
cancer screening, which is, of course, true -- cancer screening, wellness.
And as important as is that is to demonstrate the broad set of projects
that are part of Planned Parenthood, it also sometimes moves away from
simply staking ground that says part of what we do is to provide abortions,
abortions are a protected medical procedures that are between a doctor and
a woman, and that`s what we provide.
You look at things like the Chicago abortion fund and other abortion
funs, that not only say that, but say, hey, if you cannot afford it -- so I
wonder if we have to push even harder rather than accommodating the idea
that abortion is something that we should be ashamed of.
RICHARDS: Well, we are definitely not ashamed of it and it is
important for women to have access to full reproductive care. I don`t
think there is a bigger advocate, or advocacy organization in America.
And, unfortunately, not only fighting with Congress over access, but state
legislatures in 50 states.
I think what`s important that people understand and this is what is
reflected over and over again is that people believe strongly in this
country that the right to make a decision about a pregnancy, whatever that
decision maybe, should be left to a woman and not politician. This is
consistent and again, it goes to your point, Congresswoman, why do we have
this move to now we have rejected government restrictions in every other
part of our lives, and yet we have politicians who are literally getting in
between the doctor/patient relationship in the country.
BASS: You know, it is interesting, too, because when the debates
happened on the floor, you really find the men passionately arguing this,
even the Republican women. And it wasn`t until the press started noticing
that, that you saw the Republican women really get up and make a stand.
When I was in the state legislature, my female Republican colleagues
used to sit there and somewhat hang their heads while the men just railed,
just on and on and on passionately about a woman`s not having the right to
HARRIS-PERRY: Because they don`t have to face it, because the
complicated difficult, emotional, medical choices are in fact embedded in
women`s bodies, and therefore ought to be our voices.
More on this, because I want to talk a little bit more next time
about all of the wonderful things that the uterus does when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ALAN GUTTMACHER, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: Well, it means that January
22nd, 1973 will stand out as one of the great days for freedom and free
choice. This allows a woman free choice as to whether or not to remain
pregnant. This is extraordinary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From the beginning, pro-abortionists forces
have seen this issue as a question of the freedom of an individual`s
choice, the freedom to have an abortion is now legal in every state, and
the basic legal fight is, in effect, over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, we now know that the fight, legal and otherwise,
wasn`t over on January 22nd, 1973, but nearly 40 years to the day after Roe
v. Wade`s Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, where is the fight
for reproductive rights headed?
So, I really do want to talk about all of the things that the uterus
does because, on the one hand, I want to stand up for being able to talk
about the termination, but the wins that the reproductive rights movement
has had has been the big tent got pitched and we ended with folks who
wanted IVF, and birth control and all of the other aspects of reproductive
justice, all under the big tent.
How do we make that argument, that claim, that if you want IVF, you
also need to stand on the side of Roe v. Wade?
RICHARDS: It`s interesting. One of the underreported stories in the
state of Mississippi, very, very conservative state by any measure, what --
the proposal was they had a constitutional amendment proposed that was
going before the voters to create a personhood amendment, which essentially
would have given the fertilized egg, all the inalienable rights of you and
me, and I wouldn`t go into the details of that. But suffice it to say,
this threatened by only access to safe and legal abortion, but common
prescribed forms of birth control, potentially IVF.
And it created a conversation among medical providers, among folks in
Mississippi, and in fact, Mississippi voters defeated that overwhelmingly
by more than 16 points, because again, I think it focused on the question,
well, who is really the best person to make the decision about pregnancy at
whatever stage? Is it a woman or is it a politician?
WALTER: But that Pew poll that you pointed to, also, and you guys
have been talking about this at Planned Parenthood, this issue of morality
and what -- whether this is a moral choice or not to have an abortion, and
you know, it is obviously still for even for people who support Roe v. Wade
conflicted about this, right?
WALTER: So I think that is so much of what the debate has been
about, is allowing that conflict to stay there. To say we understand that
this is -- for so many people, it is going to be at the core.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to take that seriously, and as a person who has
done almost everything with the uterus that one can do, right, so I have a
child, and I have had an abortion and at a certain point I became so ill I
had a hysterectomy. And so, I have made so many choices to use and dispose
of my ultimately my uterus.
And there is -- none of those choices are easy and you are asking
yourself about the future and where you are now but -- and there are all
kinds of moral and ethical and prayerful decisions that become a part of
all of that, but the idea that a state or a federal legislature would have
at any point had the right to intervene on that or on the same decisions
that my daughter may someday need to make.
BASS: And before I was involved in politics, I worked as a health
care provider, as a P.A. in the emergency room, and went through school.
And the idea that politicians would tell me what I was supposed to do in
the exam room is really scandalous.
And I think that one problem that we have is that we at different
points in time have conciliated the moral side of it, because we should
have the moral side when it comes to choice, but also the same people that
fight for forced pregnancy as you call it, once the child is born, they
don`t want to give the child food if the mother needs it, because she is a
child or whatever. I think that the moral high ground we have to take
RICHARDS: I`d like to pick up, too, and I couldn`t agree more, but I
like to pick up, too, on what Amy said, because I -- this is something that
where I believe that the issue of abortion is one that is deeply personal,
that people have complex feelings about and very personal feelings about.
And this is where I -- you know, we saw this in South Dakota, again,
a very conservative state that would not be progressive in a lot of issues,
but where the voters two times overwhelmingly voted against making abortion
illegal in South Dakota. And that is because many of the voters were able
to hold the two thoughts at the same time, which is both the personal
feeling that it might not be the decision that they would make, but they
could not walk in another woman`s shoes. They could not make that decision
for every woman.
And that is really where the American people are. Again, I -- you
referred to this earlier, Melissa, this is the thing that the inconsistency
here is that we know actually how to prevent unintended pregnancy, and this
is not brain surgery. It is making sure that folks have sex education as
young people and making sure they have access to birth control. And right
now, we were just part of a study where we demonstrated -- it was a medical
study over seven years, five years -- which showed if you actually provided
women access to birth control --
RICHARDS: -- at no cost, in fact, we could reduce unintended
pregnancy, teen pregnancy and the need for abortion.
BASS: We want to do that.
RICHARDS: And the same folks are fighting --
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, the point is so important that they both don`t
want to provide access to the preventative measures on the front end, or
the kind of social justice or the safety measures for children who were
born on the other end, and that is part of the comprehensive more and moral
Thank you to Amy, to Mia, to Congresswoman Karen Bass, and also to
And up next, "Foot Soldiers" in action. This is a day of service.
HARRIS-PERRY: All across the country, we are seeing foot soldiers in
action today. Volunteers and organizations taking part in a national day
of service, President Obama`s call for Americans to honor the legacy of Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., by volunteering in their own communities.
Right now, nearly 100 nonprofit organizations are holding a service
fair on the National Mall. One of them is Points of Light, an organization
that aims to inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action that changes
With me today is Delores Morton. She is part of the Points of Light
program -- in fact, she is president of the Points of Light programs
Thank you so much for being here.
DELORES MORTON, POINTS OF LIGHT: Thank you for having us.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you`re also, you`re my home -- you`re a
MORTON: I am Louisianan. Bayou girl.
HARRIS-PERRY: Which I love.
Tell me a little bit about the fundamental philosophy that is Points
MORTON: Points of Light is the world`s largest organization that`s
dedicated to volunteer service. And so, all over the country today and
throughout the year, we engage millions of people in volunteer service with
an opportunity to first experience service, knowing that it can be
transformational. It`s not just about what you give to somebody else, what
you do through a service, but about what you get yourself when you do that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s talk about the transformational part, because I
feel like sometimes when we talk about volunteerism or service, people
think that it is something that just the privileged get to do. Rich and
powerful who come down to communities that who don`t have much. But we do
our foot soldiers every week. It`s a lot of times bottom-up. It`s a lot
of times people from those communities who know what the service is needed.
HARRIS-PERRY: How do you get out the message that everyone should
MORTON: I think we do it by giving examples of service and
celebrating service leaders. Today, there are 600 kids that are
volunteering at a project in New York City, helping to change their own
school. So it`s not kids from another school district, from an affluent
school district, going to help kids in an underprivileged public school.
But it`s those kids from that same public school who are refurbishing their
And so, it`s providing those kinds of examples and small
opportunities for people to serve. There`s a good way to use all of your
assets, your whole body, so you can use your time, your talent, your voice,
your money, just back stage.
When I was in makeup, we were talking about a call for makeup artists
to do makeovers for some of the soldiers who are going to be going to balls
this weekend. That`s just an everyday talent, something everyone has to
So, a makeup artist might not think, I have a specific skill to give
away. But here`s a different way for me to serve. There are so many ways
we can do something to help someone else.
HARRIS-PERRY: The other thing about points of light and about this
more 100 nonprofit organizations is they are often bipartisan, nonpartisan.
It is in part the moment when our identity as Americans or identity as
fellow humans becomes more important than our political identity. That
feels like part of what`s important here. An inauguration can still be a
very political event and this is a way of saying, no, no, the Bush family
which is deeply involved with Points of Light and the Obama family which is
calling for this in this moment, both with the same mission.
MORTON: Absolutely. No matter how different we are, service is
something that we all believe in. I think that Americans are really at
their best, we are at our best when we`re doing for someone else.
We tend to wait, I think the challenge is we often wait until a
hurricane Sandy, a hurricane Katrina happens or there`s a fire or a
shooting. So we tend to wait and act when there`s an emotional call.
But instead we should be serving every day. There are needs every
day. There are people, soldiers who are having trouble re-acclimating.
There are kids who aren`t getting the kind of educational resources they
So there are service opportunities that exist every day. There`s not
a need to wait until there`s something that happens that calls us to do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, you know, it`s part of the reminder that we see
so much bad news on the news, that, you know, it`s part of why the foot
soldiers segment means a lot to us, it just reminds people that there`s so
much good happening.
MORTON: Oh, yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: If you had to say there`s one thing Americans are
thinking, I didn`t sign up for today, but they can take action next week or
in the next week, what is that one thing?
MORTON: Well, you know, pointsoflight.org. I don`t want to do an
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, why not?
MORTON: But we have a great repository of 250-plus organizations
across the country in almost every community who are looking for
volunteers. And if you can`t find one, you can do a zip code search there
and find a volunteer opportunity.
But there`s also a great opportunity for you to look inside your own
neighborhood. My husband tutors kids at our church. He said, you know, we
need more math tutors. You see a need, do something instead of waiting for
someone else to call you to act and to do something.
Help someone across the street. Don`t ignore the person who`s
standing asking for something at the red light. So just treat people like
people. That`s a way everybody can give.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dolores, thank you so much. It was, of course, Martin
Luther King, Jr., who said everyone can be great because everyone can
Thank you to Dolores Martin. And if you missed your chance to
volunteer today, that is OK. There are going to be more opportunities on
Monday, which is the annual Martin Luther King Day of Service.
If you`ve been inspired by the foot soldiers we`ve been bringing you
over the past year, this is your chance to get involved and do some foot
soldiering on your on.
That, of course, is our show for today. Tomorrow on Nerdland, we`re
right back here in Washington, D.C., asking about the great expectations
for President Obama`s second term. What is he going to deliver this time
around? That`s tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
And, right now, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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